We go through our everyday lives with goals, plans, and plenty of things to do. People are capable of completing complex tasks and multiple tasks throughout the day with help from our powerful mind. Executive function skills have so much to do with having successful days and, of course, taking care of business. No one is born with executive function skills, but it does develop early and over time. When it comes to your kids, you’ll notice them begin to take care of business every day and in their very own way. Executive function skills are likely at work!
What are Executive Function Skills?
Wrap your head around executive function skills! Quite simply, executive function skills are a set of skills that help us with a multitude of tasks. Planning ahead, meeting deadlines, prioritizing, ignoring distractions, and self-control are all involved with executive function skills. To break this down further, executive function components include:
Working Memory – Involves holding small amounts of information in our brains temporarily. Working memory examples include paying attention to verbal information or writing down a set of numbers you were asked to remember. In short, working memory allows us to work with information in a short-term setting. We will probably never need that information again, but we’ll be able to complete a task and stay focused doing so.
Cognitive Flexibility – Involves the ability to adapt based on the situational changes in front of us. Cognitive flexibility examples include coming up with a Plan B when you run out of orange juice and switching between tasks when sorting objects by shape and then by color.
Inhibitory Control – Relates to self-control. How are we doing at regulating our automatic emotions, behavior, and thoughts in the presence of unpredictable circumstances? How are we at holding our attention against distractions?
Issues with Executive Function Skills
It’s true that kids are developing executive function skills, but everyone does so a little differently and at their own pace. Problems that arise with executive function skills can easily get in the way. For example, you may notice that your kiddo struggles with getting things done at school and staying focused on those chores at home. Executive functioning issues looks like:
- Being easily distracted
- Forgetfulness with details, names, schoolwork, and more
- Leaving tasks/assignments unfinished before moving on or is unable to begin a new task
- Struggles with instructions, transitions, and rules
- Challenged with controlling emotions
- Fixating on certain tasks, thoughts, or emotions
Remember that executive functioning difficulties will appear differently depending on the individual. Concerns like these are commonly seen in kids with ADHD, autism, and several other conditions. When issues are getting in the way of your child’s success at school, home, or on the playground, it’s important to take these concerns seriously. Delaying help can cause problems to worsen and make it harder to get help later on in life. Pediatric occupational therapy is an excellent option to help your child learn new ways to sharpen their executive function skills and help them take care of business… and play too!
Activities for Executive Functioning
What better way to make use of our executive function skills than to get playing? Big business can wait a bit. Physical exercise for ADHD kids and kids with executive functioning concerns really helps with attention span and working memory. In fact, any kiddo tall or small will reap the benefits of regular physical activity. Other ideas include board games, memory games like I Spy, and much more. If you’re fishing for ideas by age, you’ll want to check out Havard University’s Activities Guide. As your kiddo gets to taking care of business, repetition, practice, and play are key. Some work and some play is the way to be!
Remember that if you are seeing concerns arise in your child, you’ll want to speak with your child’s medical provider about occupational therapy. Of course, you can always contact us with questions and for scheduling appointments.